Fröhlich Lecture Series in Physics 2018/19 - Professor Michael Preuss

2:00pm - 3:00pm / Wednesday 21st November 2018 / Venue: Muspratt Lecture Theatre Chadwick Building
Type: Seminar / Category: Department
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“Maximising Energy Extraction from Nuclear Fuel Assemblies – A Challenge for Materials Scientists”

Professor Michael Preuss, Deputy Director of Materials Performance Centre & Rolls-Royce Nuclear UTC, University of Manchester

In water-cooled reactors zirconium alloys have been the material of choice for fuel assemblies due to a combination of low neutron cross-section, excellent corrosion performance and good mechanical properties. However, fuel cladding performance, or our ability to predict its performance, remains the limiting factor in an effort to push for increased fuel burn-up, i.e. the energy extracted from a fuel assembly before it is removed from the core.

As the UK is expected to get a large fleet of civil light water reactors for the first time, it is important to develop an understanding that will enable us to optimise fuel assembly performance, maximise burn-up while minimising fuel failures. During the last decade Zr cladding research in the UK has grown from almost not existent into a thriving world leading activity. During my presentation I will focus on progress we have made in understanding the effect of alloying elements on aqueous corrosion performance, hydrogen pick-up and irradiation damage in Zr-alloys while also highlighting the many remaining gaps in understanding. I will present results of detailed studies using a multi-scale characterisation approach by employing diffraction and scattering techniques as well as novel electron microscopy techniques. These techniques have been employed to investigate in detail the oxide grown during autoclave testing or during in-reactor service and to characterise irradiation damage formed during accelerated proton irradiation to compare with neutron irradiated material. While state-of-the-art characterisation tools now allow us to make new observations and rethink previously proposed mechanisms, it is also clear that more modelling efforts are required in the future to fully explain the experimental observations.